Summertime is a great time to make (and fulfill) wish lists. In a perfect world, what are some things you wish you had the time or energy to do? For some, having a little more free time means considering how they can positively impact their communities. When you have extra, you might be more apt to consider sharing the extra that you have.
Parents, you may not enjoy the same amount of extra time as your children during the summer, but hopefully the demands of life and the rigor of schedules are a little less intense. Let’s talk about how your kids can use their summer freedom to enrich the world around them.
Why is it important for kids to volunteer? Here are a few thoughts. Volunteering…
- Widens their world view. It allows kids to consider how their experience might differ from others’, and how the world works as a whole.
- Engenders appreciation of community spaces and resources.
- Is a great resume builder.
- Is a constructive way to balance free time.
- Helps them explore possible career interests.
- Can lend important job skills, like working on teams and problem solving.
Here are some tips on building a true appreciation of community service.
Volunteer with your kids.
Leading by example is one of the strongest ways to influence your children. Working toward a mutual goal can also be a very rewarding experience. Use this time to share some of your own interests with your children, and learn about theirs. Do they love animals? Volunteer at the animal shelter together. Do you like gardening? Choose a park beautification project for the both of you.
Make it a routine.
Part of building commitment to community service is making it part of the fabric of your life. Just as certain families go to worship service every Sunday or have Pizza Fridays, participating in a special service project can become a welcome routine. Maybe it’s spending time at the retirement home once a month, or reading books to children at the library during weekly story time. Find something that works with your schedule, and do your best to stick with it.
Set goals for the year.
If creating a balanced life for your student is a priority for you and service is part of that, be sure to set goals. Whether your ideal is volunteering once per month or working with three new organizations or initiatives a year, putting a finite goal together will help you stay on track.
Consider going outside your interests.
It may seem intuitive to volunteer by doing things that you already like. For instance, a gardening enthusiast may love planting trees. Consider this, however: Spending time with an organization or initiative that wouldn’t normally interest you is a fantastic way to broaden your horizons, grow your appreciation, and learn new things! If you have never staffed a food pantry or worked in meal prep, for example, here’s your chance to become more aware of your community’s needs or sharpen your cooking chops.
Know where to look.
So now that you’re committed to amping up your family’s service hours, where do you start? Here are some resources that will help you find the right fit:
- VolunteerMatch allows you to search by city, interest, and volunteer age.
- Love animals? The Humane Society of the United States offers opportunities by city and state.
- For those that are handy, consider installing a Little Free Library in your yard or in a public space! (Be sure to check local laws first.)
- For more inspiration, check out these 12 Amazing Volunteer Ideas to Inspire Kids and Teens from WeAreTeachers.
Building a solid belief in community service is one of the ways we can build strong generations to come. Volunteering not only builds empathy, it also helps your child develop life skills, explore potential career interests, and start cultivating traits that will help them in the workplace.